sondheim at panix.com
Fri Aug 22 06:20:32 CEST 2008
January 25. I was working at the table while Seryozha was lying on the
sofa and reading some tattered book with a green cover. Suddenly he jumped up
"Sasha! Just a minute. Listen to this!"
As solemnly and loudly as if he were reading to an audience of
thousands he read to me:
"'To deliver up millions of men, superior minds, scientists, even
geniuses, to the caprice and will of a being who in an instant of gaiety,
madness, intoxication, or love, would not hesitate to sacrifice everything for
his exalted fancy, will spend the wealth of the country amassed by others with
difficulty, will have thousands of men slaughtered on the battlefields, all
this appears to me, a simple logician, a monstrous aberration.' Pretty good
"Swell!" I agreed. "About Hitler, Eh?"
"You certainly hit the nail on the head!" said Seryozha bursting out
laughing. "That's Maupassant, brother, 'The Sundays of a Parisian'!"
Somewhat embarrassed, I laughed too.
"Not so long ago I gave a talk on Hitlerism," said Seryozha. "I was
asked why Hitler is burning the classics. I answered that fascism was the enemy
of culture in general and so on. But what I should have done was read this page
from Maupassant. It would have answered the purpose better. Pity I didn't get
hold of this book before. This is one straight in the eye for crazy Adolf.
There isn't a single classic in which he can't find a crack at himself. That's
why he got so raving ad and gave orders to burn them all. Freaks don't keep
mirrors in their houses. A mirror reminds them of their freakishness and only
Then Seryozha took out his notebook and copied the quotation. Feeling
extremely pleased with himself he began to walk around the room whistling an
aria from "Carmen."
[ ... ]
Seryozha has summed up the work of the crew. We have 160 opera-
tional flights to our credit. We've done 180,000 kilometres over enemy
territory and dropped more than 200 tons of bombs on various targets. We
took a hand in defending Moscow, saw action on the Kharkov and Voronezh
Fronts and around Leningrad and Stalingrad. We've flown to Germany and to
Hitler's vassal countries. I must say that the "itinerary" of our crew
looks quite impressive.
"We've done what we could," said Sergei. "Wish to God that every-
one could do the same. And I hope that before the end of the war we'll
still manage to add something or other to our score. Right, Sasha?"
"Right," said I. "If only we're alive we certainly will."
>From A. Molodchy, "180,000 Kilometres over Enemy Territory," in An Army
of Heroes, True Stories of Soviet Fighting Men, translated from the
Russian by Elizabeth Donnelly, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow,
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